Managing Emotions in the Courtroom: Coping With Stress and Anxiety

Managing Emotions in the Courtroom

Attending court for any reason can be daunting and stressful for a number of reasons. Of course, the court is an unfamiliar setting for most people, and it’s natural to feel anxious, fearful, or stressed about the scenario. In addition, the subject matter of the case itself can trigger certain emotions in you. Couple this with the lengthy and often expensive proceedings, and it can be a struggle to keep yourself at peace and face the situation at hand.

Still, it’s essential to keep your emotions in check as much as possible. Not only can these emotions make you feel uncomfortable and worsen the stress you feel during court, but they can negatively affect your decision-making skills and how you communicate with others in the courtroom. Losing your cool in the courtroom can even affect your chances of receiving a favorable judgment.

Our team at The Valley Law Group has put together a guide containing coping tips to help you through court proceedings. We know how overwhelming the courtroom can be, and we hope you’ll take some time to practice these strategies so you can make informed decisions during the trial.

Understanding the Emotional Challenges in the Courtroom

If you’re facing your first-ever court case, you may be wondering why people become stressed or frustrated during court proceedings. In fact, there are a few common reasons emotions can run at an all-time high during a trial, including the high stakes or the contentious nature of the legal system. While you want the best outcome possible for your trial, it’s important to learn how your emotions can get in the way of your success, especially if you fail to pay attention to how you’re feeling. Below are just a few emotions commonly experienced in the courtroom, as well as why we experience them.


It’s rare for anyone but a seasoned attorney to avoid feeling a bit of stress in the courtroom. People are frequently stressed due to the topic at hand or exhausted from the lengthy and tiring legal process. Unfortunately, when unaddressed, this stress can begin to impact the way court proceedings unfold.

So, how does stress impact court communication? When stressed, you can begin experiencing a vast range of physical or psychological changes, including chest pain, nausea, headache, elevated blood pressure, irritability, aggression, concentration issues, memory issues, and more. If you’re under a considerable amount of stress due to a court case, it’s easy to see how these symptoms – or many of them all at once – can begin to influence how you conduct yourself and what you say. Poor communication due to stress can result in a less effective argument or misunderstandings, and can even damage your case before a judge or jury.


Many of the other emotions commonly experienced in the courtroom are closely associated with stress, including anxiety. You may begin feeling anxious about your trial well before your court date, as you wonder how things are going to go or what others will think about you. Whether you’re accused of a crime or addressing family issues in family court, you may also feel anxiety when people discuss what you did or who you are as a person. Finally, you may even be anxious about appearing before a judge in the courtroom setting.

While it’s normal to feel a bit nervous, true anxiety can cause sweatiness, shaking, nausea, elevated blood pressure, hyperventilation, weakness, difficulty concentrating, and even anger or rage. Much like stress, these symptoms can make effective communication in the courtroom extremely difficult. There’s no simple cure for courtroom-related anxiety, but it can be managed through the reliable coping strategies discussed below.


As your case proceeds, you may begin to feel frustrated during the court proceedings. Whether you believe the case is unnecessary, just wish the trial could be over, or believe your arguments aren’t convincing the jury and judge, frustration is a normal response. It’s important, however, to recognize when you’re frustrated so you can take steps to remain calm and proceed in a professional manner. You’re allowed to be frustrated with your situation, but you should manage your emotions as much as possible to avoid negatively impacting your case or the judge’s view of you.


Anger is an especially common emotion experienced during family court hearings. Discussions about parenting time or the division of assets can quickly become contentious, which is why having them during a mediation or negotiation session can be so helpful. If you become angry during court, whether it’s about an accusation made by your former partner or a proposal suggested by the court, it’s crucial to keep your anger in check.


Whether you’re in court because you’ve been accused of a crime or you’re dealing with critical issues like child custody, you may fear the results of the hearing, which is also very normal. You may fear the worst and worry you’ll receive criminal penalties or lose access to your children, or you may fear the court will refuse your divorce or parenting time proposal. Fear is common when going through court proceedings, but there are ways to manage your fear so you can remain confident and calm.

Coping Strategies for Managing Stress and Anxiety in Court

Managing Stress and Anxiety in Court

Stress and anxiety are the two most common emotions felt during court proceedings, but a host of other emotions can stem from them or become present due to the case itself. In the face of the emotional upheaval your court case may induce, it’s crucial to remain as calm as possible. Stress and anxiety – as well as their physical and psychological symptoms – can drastically affect how well you are able to communicate and participate in your hearing. While you can’t eliminate them completely, you can manage these emotions with some tested coping techniques.

If you’re concerned with how to reduce the stress of facing a trial in court, practice these strategies.

Breathing Exercises

When you become stressed, your heart rate and breathing pattern adjust to fit the “fight or flight” response. By practicing breathing exercises and choosing a few that work for you, you can keep yourself calm and prevent your body from hyperventilating, thereby protecting your courtroom demeanor. Deep breathing is a basic strategy that is effective for many, and you can accomplish it by breathing slowly and deeply when you begin to feel stressed or anxious. Let your diaphragm fill with air, then slowly let out the breath. This helps your body feel more balanced, and when you feel balanced, you’re less likely to feel worried, angry, or fearful.

Mindfulness Techniques

Mindfulness is the idea of remaining focused on the present rather than past mistakes or future possibilities. When some people think of mindfulness, they immediately assume it means meditation, though you don’t always have to meditate to remain present. An example of a mindfulness technique that can help you to remain grounded in the present and manage anxiety is to pay attention to your senses. Take a sip of water, for example, and take time to recognize how it feels on your tongue, the temperature, the taste, and the sensation you get from hydrating your body. This keeps you focused on something in the present rather than the past or future.

Taking Breaks

Just as an athlete would need a break to rest and prepare to continue, you need to take frequent breaks as well. Powering through a stressful and highly detailed legal proceeding isn’t a wise strategy, and you may do more mental and emotional damage than usual this way. Allow yourself to take a break when you need to and as the proceedings allow. It can be beneficial to step back from it all and regain your composure; then, when you’ve rested, you can return to the courtroom ready to proceed with the case.

Treat Yourself

People can become heavily focused on their court proceedings, meaning they don’t take time to let themselves relax or enjoy something they used to. When you do get breaks or when you reach a certain milestone, allow yourself to earn a reward for it. For example, if a particular point of the trial is worrying you, give yourself something nice when you complete it. Whether it’s a meal at your favorite restaurant or a new movie you’ve been wanting to watch, treat yourself so you can give yourself a rest from the case itself.

Reach Out to Loved Ones

No matter what your case entails, there’s no shame in reaching out to your loved ones for emotional support. We understand this may not always be possible depending on certain circumstances, but if you have loved ones who support you, ask them to attend court with you. If they can’t attend court, ask if they can at least keep in contact so you can ask for guidance. Just because you’re involved in a court proceeding doesn’t mean you’re unable to have support.

Effective Communication in the Courtroom

Effective Communication in the Courtroom

As previously mentioned, your communication habits can change as a result of your emotions. If you’re feeling angry or frustrated, this can manifest itself through your word choice or tone of voice. If you act aggressively when trying to explain your situation, it can be perceived as offensive or intimidating, two qualities that don’t bode well for most family and civil court cases. Lashing out in the courtroom for any reason may render you unreliable, and your opinions and stories won’t be considered. You may even be removed and charged with contempt of court.

Instead, use these techniques to improve your communication skills while keeping your emotions in control.

Be Assertive

It may feel natural to be aggressive, especially if you’re angry or even if you’re extremely confident in your case. Instead, assert yourself calmly and answer any questions respectfully, clearly, and cordially. If you’re combative with your answers or responses, you may end up tanking your chances of meeting the most desirable outcome when your trial is finished.

Listen Attentively

When our emotions get the best of us, we may be tempted to speak loudly and aggressively. However, voicing your thoughts out loud isn’t always effective or wise, no matter how you convey them. In court – as with most other situations in life, it’s just as important to listen as it is to speak. If the judge or an attorney asks a question, listen to it carefully and wait for them to finish speaking before devising your answer. Not only will you then understand exactly what was said, but you can better prepare an answer you can deliver cordially.

Maintain Your Physical Composure

It’s normal to become agitated if someone says something you don’t agree with. However, even if you refrain from speaking out about your emotions, it’s important to address how you’re expressing yourself physically, as well. Displaying anger, sadness, anxiety, frustration, and more can draw negative attention and impact your case. Take deep breaths and do what you can to keep your facial expressions relaxed.

Seeking Professional Support

None of the above strategies come naturally at first, and even if you’ve practiced coping tips to help you through court proceedings, you may still have trouble implementing them. No matter how skilled you are at maintaining your emotions in the courtroom, you can always benefit by seeking professional support.

Speaking with a counselor or therapist about your case can not only help you better understand your situation but also ensure you have someone on your side for support. When a therapist helps you break down your situation, you may gain additional insight that makes your case and the potentialities easier to accept. Therapists are trained to help you examine your thought patterns and triggers, so if you can be open and honest about what’s bothering you, they can build a strategy that helps you keep your emotions in check.

We recommend scheduling time with a therapist as soon as you learn your case will proceed to court. The more time you can spend processing your emotions in a healthy way as you prepare for your case, the more practice you’ll have keeping yourself in check during the proceedings. However, it’s never too late to reach out for help – the right time to begin working with a therapist to help you manage your emotions as you face a court case is right now.

Begin Managing Your Emotions in the Courtroom Today

In summary, managing your emotions in the courtroom is crucial to improving how you’re perceived, how you behave, how you communicate, and what the final outcome of the case may be. There are several emotions you may feel as you navigate this complicated legal scenario, yet there are also plenty of skills you can use to keep them under control. Whether you prefer practicing mindfulness, breathing exercises, therapy, or a mix of multiple strategies, there’s no shame in resorting to them to reduce your stress, frustration, anxiety, or other emotions.

When your emotions are controlled, you’ll have an easier time remaining composed both when you’re speaking and when you’re listening. Don’t hesitate to practice the strategies outlined in this guide, and always seek help when needed.

Our Professional Family Law Team Can Help

Professional Family Law Team

A final key way to mitigate courtroom stress is to have a skilled attorney by your side to help you manage your case, communicate effectively, and ensure no stone is left unturned. If you need legal assistance for a family court case, our team at The Valley Law Group can help. We have built a strong reputation in Phoenix, Gilbert and throughout the valley for our formidable representation and extensive knowledge regarding the family court system. We know this is an emotional time for you, and we can help make the situation less stressful from the beginning by evaluating your case and crafting a strong argument in your favor. To learn more about what we do and how we can help, schedule a consultation today.

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